Ex-Republican House Speaker Denny Hastert
• WATN: Did anyone see this coming? Former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert, a Republican who represented Illinois for almost two decades, was just indicted on charges that he lied to the FBI and "structured" financial transactions to avoid IRS detection. Prosecutors have made few details of the allegations known so far (the indictment itself can be found here), but according to unnamed sources cited by BuzzFeed, the charges could stem from actions Hastert took before entering politics all the way back in 1980.
Hastert unexpectedly became speaker in 1999, after Newt Gingrich resigned from the House following a terrible election year for the GOP in 1998, and Rep. Bob Livingston, his designated successor, also resigned following revelations that he'd had an affair. During his tenure, Hastert was widely regarded as a figurehead, with real power residing in Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, whose career ended amid corruption allegations.
Hastert, by contrast, followed Gingrich's path: After disastrous midterms in 2006 that saw Democrats retake the chamber, he, too, quit the House. By that time, Nancy Pelosi had become speaker, and in a further insult, Democrat Bill Foster picked up Hastert's seat in a special election. Hastert always maintained a low profile in D.C., and he's barely been heard from since he left Washington. But now it looks like we're about to hear a whole lot more.
• AZ-Sen: It seems like most folks were unprepared for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick's Tuesday announcement that she'd run against John McCain for Senate—including fellow Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who'd never ruled out a run of her own. Sinema reacted warily (perhaps even testily) to the news, saying she was "pretty surprised" and telling a reporter who asked her opinion of Kirkpatrick's chances that he'd "probably have to call Ann and ask her."
Sinema'd always seemed like the more ambitious of the two, transmogrifying over the years from a Ralph Nader staffer to a self-described "Prada socialist" to a card-carrying member of the Blue Dog Coalition. But both women had been waiting on the outcome of a Republican lawsuit seeking to invalidate Arizona's current congressional districts, a case that had seemingly put state politics on hold.
Yet Kirkpatrick chose to be bold in the face of uncertainty, and that may have cost Sinema. Despite Sinema's rightward peregrination, Kirkpatrick has more experience winning over conservative voters, and her decision to jump in was met with excitement and acclaim in Democratic circles. Sinema could certainly still run, and if the GOP eviscerates her district, she very well might. But the longer Kirkpatrick laps up attention (and money), the harder it'll be for Sinema to get traction in a primary battle.
• KY-Gov: After a recanvass of returns in Kentucky's 120 counties, the results of the May 19 Republican primary for governor haven't budged an inch, with businessman Matt Bevin maintaining his 83-vote lead on state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. Comer has until Friday to decide whether to seek a recount, which he'd have to pay for. While 83 votes might not seem like a lot—it's just 0.04 percent of all votes cast—that's actually a fairly large number to flip in a recount, particularly since there were no reports of widespread irregularities on election night.
• AK-AL: Longtime Republican Rep. Don Young hasn't faced a real primary challenge ever since his 304-vote win against future Gov. Sean Parnell in 2008, but that may be about to change. State Rep. Lance Pruitt, a former majority leader, says that unidentified people are encouraging him to take on Young, and he's going to think about it after the legislative session is over. Pruitt doesn't seem incredibly excited about the prospect though, saying that he respects Young and wants to decide if the congressman is "still effective in D.C., as a Republican."
Young remains a powerful force on Capitol Hill, though his insulting remarks about a high school student's suicide last year got him into trouble. However, if Pruitt gets in, he might end up helping the incumbent. Roll Call reported that tea partying businessman Joe Miller was looking at a primary run, and former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell is also a possible candidate. It's unclear if anywhere near a majority of GOP primary voters are ready to dump Young but if they are, the congressman will be happy to see his challengers divide the vote.
• NH-01: The bumbling University of New Hampshire has offered us yet another lesson in their ongoing public seminar titled "How Not to Conduct a Poll." Their latest survey was taken over a 17-day period from May 6 to May 22, or about five times as long as it should have. Pollster Andy Smith offered the excuse that lengthy field period was due to the end of the school year, but then he had the chutzpah to claim it was a feature, not a bug!
Smith said that the long completion time allowed UNH to "catch this trend"—the trend supposedly being a decline in embattled GOP Rep. Frank Guinta's favorability numbers. First off, if conducting a poll for 17 days is such a good idea, then why doesn't everyone do it all the time? (Hint: It's because it's not.) Secondly, what would you say if I told you that Guinta's more popular now than he was before his campaign finance scandal broke wide open a couple of weeks ago?
Well, it's true, even by UNH's own numbers! Currently, 30 percent of 1st District voters have a positive view of Guinta while 40 percent view him negatively, a net score of -10. But back in February, Guinta's favorables stood at 23-36, for a net of -13—three points worse than now. Even more amusingly, New Hampshire's other member of the House, 2nd District Democrat Annie Kuster, has a very similar 24-38 favorability rating, and she's not embroiled in any high-profile scandals that have prompted fellow party members to ask for her resignation. None of this adds up.
As we've demonstrated time and time and time again, UNH is simply a terrible pollster that has never responded to any criticism of its methodology. But by virtue of serving as the most prominent polling outfit in a volatile state that receives an outsize share of political attention, Smith and his school have continually ensured that their "data," such as it is, gets plenty of play. They should, however, be shunned until they clean up their act. It's long past time they do.
• PA-08: The GOP may finally have a candidate for this open swing seat. State Rep. Scott Petri has formed an exploratory committee, though he hasn't committed to anything yet. A few other Republicans have been name-dropped but no one else has shown much public interest in this suburban Philadelphia district, but it's too early to say that Petri will have the field to himself if he gets in. Things are competitive on the Democratic side, with state Rep. Steve Santarsiero facing 2014 candidate Shaughnessy Naughton.
• WA-01: A few days ago, GOP state Rep. Elizabeth Scott quietly filed papers to take on Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene, and it doesn't appear that she's just testing the waters. Scott only says she'll make "a more formal announcement at a later date," and the state GOP chair is acting like she's in. This isn't going to be an easy pickup for Team Red though: Obama won this northern Washington seat 54-43, and DelBene easily held on during last year's Republican wave.
• Redistricting: It's no secret that gerrymandering has given the GOP a massive firewall when it comes to defending their House majority. Even in 2012, when Democratic House candidates won more votes than Republicans, Team Blue came nowhere close to flipping the chamber. In a new piece, Stephen Wolf demonstrates how gerrymandering cost the Democrats critical seats in the Northeast, and creates non-partisan maps that would better reflect the will of voters while keeping communities intact.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and Taniel.